If you pick up a bottle of biodynamic wine at your local wine shop, you’re not only guaranteed a taste of organic grapes, but also a vineyard that takes sustainability well beyond shunning pesticides and other chemicals.
Unlike organic farming, which often simply replaces synthetic fertilizers and herbicides with naturally-derived products, biodynamic farming is a holistic agricultural method that treats the farm like a living organism, rather than a factory.
Instead of bringing in outside fertilizers and pesticides, biodynamic farmers build soil fertility and manage pests by encouraging biodiversity among crops, livestock and wildlife and by using specially prepared farm-generated outputs like composted animal manures, plants and minerals. These farmers also aim to conserve their farm’s resources, especially water and soil.
Modern biodynamic farming is based on agricultural principles proposed by Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner in 1924, as a reaction to the declining soil fertility and crop quality farmers observed as they adopted industrial farming techniques like monoculture and synthetic fertilizers.
A vineyard cannot legally refer to its farming practices or products as “biodynamic” without being certified by the nonprofit Demeter Association. And, in order to qualify for Demeter biodynamic certification, a farm must first meet the requirements of the USDA’s National Organic Program.
Once the vineyard is certified as biodynamic, its grapes are considered biodynamic, but the finished product – the wine itself – cannot be labeled as biodynamic unless it goes through Demeter’s secondary verification program for processed agricultural products.
To ensure you’re purchasing a biodynamic wine, try to find a statement saying that both the vineyard and the finished wine product have been certified by the Demeter Association, and look for the organization’s biodynamic seal.